SEATTLE — When Andrew Bailey took the mound in the ninth inning on Tuesday night, all the Red Sox players in the dugout were on the top step, leaning over the railing and getting as close to the game as they could.
They were watching so intently that it was easy to imagine, if just for a second, that something important was at stake.
And maybe something was. The Sox had lost seven straight and all involved were embarrassed. A win on Tuesday would give them a chance to take the series and return home feeling like something other than doomed.
“The last couple of weeks have been hard. But winning is natural. It’s that feeling that everybody wants, to win. No one wants to lose. It stinks, losing,” Bailey said after picking up the save in a 4-3 victory against the Mariners.
Even Bobby Valentine seemed relaxed afterward.
“The guys looked happy after the game. It’s great to see them with smiles,” the manager said. “Coming from behind, getting Jon Lester a win. … it was a good win. Maybe it’ll get something started. We’re due.”
Lester (9-11) put the Sox in a hole, giving up three runs in the first three innings. Franklin Gutierrez and Kyle Seager hit back-to-back homers in a span of three pitches in the third inning.
But Lester went six innings and left with a 4-3 lead after the Sox scored four runs in the sixth off Blake Beavan (9-9). His 111-pitch effort did not get wasted.
“It’s good,” Lester said. “It wasn’t easy, a bit of a grind. But that’s big for us to score those runs in that inning and have a shutdown inning. The bullpen did a good job after that.”
Down 3-0, the Sox came to life in the sixth inning, scoring four runs on four hits.
Dustin Pedroia (2 for 4, now hitting .292) extended his hit streak to 14 games with a lead-off single to right field. Jacoby Ellsbury, who was 4 for 26 on the trip, followed with a single to right.
Cody Ross jumped on the first pitch he saw, a slider, and drove it into the stands in left field. It was his 20th home run of the season, the first in 42 at-bats dating back to Aug. 23.
“I was just looking for something out over the plate to drive to get something going,” said Ross, who has 72 RBIs. “Fortunately I got some good wood on it and some air under it.”
With two outs, Ryan Lavarnway drove a high fastball off the scoreboard in left. That gave the Sox a lead they held.
Lavarnway came into the game hitting .174 over 69 at-bats since being called up. That swing was a long time coming.
“This is the first time I’ve had any sort of sustained struggles with my offense probably since high school,” Lavarnway said. “Trying to keep a positive attitude and obviously hitters are going to hit. You go up there and it’s only a matter of time.”
Craig Breslow started the seventh inning with the Sox up 4-3. Dustin Ackley reached on a bloop single and Kyle Seager on a single to left with one out.
The Sox went to rookie righthander Junichi Tazawa in the critical situation and he delivered. Jesus Montero, who had been 3 for 3, lined to James Loney at first base. Justin Smoak then fouled out.
Tazawa has a 1.15 WHIP and has struck out 31 in 33 innings over 25 appearances. He is showing himself as a viable option for 2013.
“Tazawa was excellent,” Valentine said. “I’ll guarantee you I’ve been trying to get him in that high leverage, after the sixth inning situation, for weeks. We’ve had to use him early and haven’t had the games that are set up. Hopefully we’ll see more of that before the year’s over.”
Said Bailey: “That game was won in the seventh inning when a couple of guys got on and Taz came in an got out of it. He was the MVP out of the bullpen for sure.”
Vicente Padilla walked pinch hitter John Jaso to start the eighth inning. Travon Robinson popped up a bunt. Pinch hitter Mike Carp grounded to first and Loney started a double play to end the inning.
Rookie shortstop Jose Iglesias made a nice play to dig out a low throw then made a strong throw back to Loney.
Bailey got two quick outs in the ninth before Eric Thames tripled to the gap in right. But Bailey calmly got Seager on a fly ball to Ross in right.
“It was nice to get back in that situation and I love that,” Bailey said. “Obviously you don’t like guys on third as the tying run. But just that inning in general and the intensity that brings, you’ve got to live off that.”